Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Bennet Breaks With Party, Supports School Choice, Charter Schools 

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A Democratic candidate for president breaks with most in his party on school choice and charter schools:  He’s for them.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado – a former superintendent of the public schools in Denver – says kids need more options.

A New Boston Post reporter attended a Bennet house party event in Brentwood, New Hampshire last Thursday to ask him about his stance on the issue.

Bennet, who drew a crowd of about 25 people, spoke for more than five minutes uninterrupted on the topic.

Why does he support charter schools?


 “My feeling is that it is a devastating fact of our country today that our education — all of it — is reinforcing the income inequality we have in this country rather than eliminating it,” Bennet said during the gathering Thursday, February 6. “The best predictor we have for the quality of a kid’s education is their income, and that should be unacceptable to anybody in America. It’s unacceptable to me.”

“The fact that there’s entire cities and counties, urban and rural in this country, where nobody can find a school where any senator would send their own kids is a travesty in this country,” he added. “I’m for good schools, especially when it comes to poor kids. That’s my ideology. I think it’s very important that every school be transparent.”

However, Bennet said he has differences on the issue with some conservative supporters of charter schools and school choice. For example, while he is in favor of public charter schools, he doesn’t support public funded charter schools under private control.

He said that during his tenure as superintendent in Denver, he never approved a private charter school for his city. Additionally, he is against school voucher programs that use taxpayer money to send students to private schools.

Bennet mentioned the Colorado Charter Schools Act, which allows local school boards to approve or deny applications of charter schools in their communities. He also touted the city’s School Performance Framework, a system he created in 2008 that rates every school in the district. The idea, he said, is that each school in the district is evaluated on an annual basis. If a charter school is failing, it can be shut down.

“What I basically said to the high performing charter schools is, ‘I will advocate to replicate you if you help me put out of business the failing charter schools,’” he explained during the event Thursday, February 6.

“In many places like where Betsy DeVos is from, Michigan, there is no accountability,” he added. “It’s bedlam and when it’s bedlam, kids don’t get a good education. My view of all of this is different than her view on it. As president, I wouldn’t impose my view on charters onto anyone else, but I do believe that we need to have better schools for kids living in poverty and everyone if we want to compete against everyone in the 21st century.”

Additionally, Bennet differs on education from some in his party in that he does not support free public college for all.

“I’m trying to answer the question in this race about what do we do with the 70 percent of students who don’t go on to college to make sure when they are graduating from high school that they can earn a living wage rather than being consigned to the minimum wage,” he said.

The New Hampshire presidential primary is Tuesday, February 11.

Bennet is considered a longshot to earn his party’s nomination. FiveThirtyEight gives him a zero percent chance of earning it.